Category Archives: Agriculture

EnviroWatch: Disease, GMOs, fracking, & nukes


And more. . .

We begin with a tragedy within a continuing tragedy via the Los Angeles Times:

Four health workers slain in attack on Pakistan vaccination team

Gunmen shot and killed four health workers carrying out a polio vaccination drive Wednesday in the capital of Pakistan’s restive Baluchistan province, police officials said.

The deadly shooting was the latest to target polio workers — whom Islamist militants accuse of conducting espionage in the guise of vaccination campaigns — in Pakistan, one of three countries where the disease has not been eradicated.

Police said that two armed men on a motorcycle opened fire on the workers as they waited for a security escort in the southwestern city of Quetta. Three women and one man were killed while three others were wounded, authorities said.

More from Deutsche Welle:

Pakistani polio workers demand safeguards

Polio workers in Pakistan have demanded greater security before returning to work after gunmen murdered four vaccination team members. Pakistan is one of three countries where polio remains endemic.

The president of the Pakistani state’s polio workers union, Haleem Shah, said thousands of his colleagues were refusing to finish the campaign to vaccinate 300,000 children in eight districts, including Quetta.

“We are in contact with the government and we have demanded that we won’t participate in the campaign until we are provided with security,” Shah told the news agency AFP.

“The government provides security for one day and if nothing bad happens then they take the security back,” he added.

Since December 2012, more than 30 polio vaccinators have been killed in Pakistan, along with nearly 30 police and security personnel guarding them.

And a small miracle within a larger catastrophe, via the Washington Post:

Guinea, hit by Ebola, reports only 1 cholera case

The health workers rode on canoes and rickety boats to deliver cholera vaccines to remote islands in Guinea. Months later, the country has recorded only one confirmed cholera case this year, down from thousands.

The rare success, overshadowed by the Ebola outbreak that has ravaged Guinea and two other West African countries, is being cautiously attributed to the vaccinations and to hand-washing in the campaign against Ebola.

Helen Matzger of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said Guinea’s experience is encouraging other countries to accept the cholera vaccine and has led the GAVI Alliance — which works to deliver vaccines to the world’s poor — to invest in a global stockpile and the U.N. World Health Organization to increase that stockpile to about 2 million doses.

Another African outbreak from the Associated Press:

Benin says Lassa fever kills 9, no Ebola found

Nine people have died in Benin from Lassa fever, a viral disease common in West Africa with symptoms similar to Ebola, the country’s health minister said.

An outbreak of Ebola is pummeling the three West African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, and some cases have turned up elsewhere. But so far no Ebola cases have been confirmed in Benin, Health Minister Dorothee Kinde Gazard told reporters late Tuesday.

Authorities will double-check those results with more tests, said Youssouf Gamatie, the representative for the World Health Organization in the country.

AllAfrica covers another continuing African public health woe:

Nigeria: WHO Expresses Concern Over Rising TB Cases in Nigeria

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has expressed concern over the rising cases of Tuberculosis (TB) in Nigeria, which has risen to three times what was initially estimated.

Out of the estimated 3,700 TB cases per year in Nigeria, only about 500 have been placed on treatment

The WHO Country Representative to Nigeria, Rui Gama Vaz, disclosed this at the formal launch of the National Strategic Plan for TB Control (2015-2020) and Dissemination of the First National TB Prevalence Survey Report in Abuja.

An outbreak in the Mideast from the Mainichi:

Saudi Arabia: Deaths from MERS virus reach 348

Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry says that a total of 348 people have died in the kingdom after contracting Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS.

The ministry’s latest figures, released late Tuesday, include two recent deaths recorded in the capital Riyadh. It brings to 810 the number of confirmed cases in Saudi Arabia since the virus was first identified in 2012.

The virus has since spread to other parts of the world, though it has mostly remained centered in Saudi Arabia. MERS belongs to a family of viruses known as coronaviruses that include both the common cold and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.

CBC News covers another epidemic:

Half-million cancers worldwide linked to obesity

  • Majority of cases occur in North America and Europe, according to study

Excess body weight caused about 481,000 new cancer cases in 2012, according to a new study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization.

That works out to about 3.6 per cent of all cancers worldwide, the majority of which occur in North America and Europe, according to the study published in the medical journal Lancet Oncology on Wednesday.

The study estimates that a quarter of all obesity-related cancers in 2012 are directly linked to rising average body mass index (BMI), especially in developed parts of the world where BMI has been increasing since the 1980s.

While Science looks for the predictive:

Better wildlife monitoring could prevent human disease outbreaks

In the new study, a team lead by Isabelle-Anne Bisson, a conservation biologist with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington D.C., set out to assess whether information on wildlife health could be used to predict the emergence of disease in humans. The team looked at historical records of nearly 150 pathogens known to jump from wildlife to humans. They searched through 60 years of scientific and newspaper reports to determine two things: first, whether the pathogens cause visible disease symptoms or death in wildlife, and second, whether human outbreaks were preceded or accompanied by evidence of the disease in animals.

“These pathogens are invisible to the human eye,” Bisson says. “You can’t see them moving through a landscape, but you can certainly detect them through sick and dead animals.”

The team found that out of the nearly 150 pathogens studied, 75 caused visible symptoms in animals, such as seizures, lethargy, unprovoked aggression, or death, meaning signs of the disease could be easily detected. In reality, however, only 13 of the disease outbreaks in humans were preceded by reports in wildlife. This suggests that early warning signs for 64 of the zoonotic pathogens—45% of the total—may have been missed, the team reports online this month in EcoHealth.

The Associated Press covers prosecution on behalf of a corporation:

Chinese woman denied own trial in seed-theft case

A woman accused of conspiring to steal trade secrets from U.S. seed companies and send them to China, where she’s married to the CEO of a large biotechnology firm, will be tried with another suspect despite her claims that she left the firm long before most of the alleged crimes, a federal judge ruled.

Mo Yun, 42, and her brother are among seven people facing charges for allegedly plotting to steal patented seeds from corn fields in Iowa and Illinois, and send them to China to be reproduced. Prosecutors say more than $500 million worth of intellectual property was stolen from Pioneer Hi-Bred, Monsanto, and LG Seeds.

Mo and her brother were arrested this year in the U.S and are scheduled to be tried together in Iowa. The other five suspects are believed to be in China, which has no extradition agreements with the U.S.

Her attorneys recently argued that most of the evidence alleges crimes committed after she left the company in 2008, including allegations of digging in cornfields to find seeds and shipping them out of the country in 2011 and 2012. Trying them together would allow jurors to hear evidence unrelated to Mo and could sway jurors, defense attorney Terry Bird argued.

From Grist, another GMO story:

In Oregon, GMO labeling lost by 800 votes. Now it’s getting a recount

On Nov. 6, Oregon’s initiative to label genetically engineered foods ended up only a few thousand votes away from success. Now it is down by just 812 votes — which means there will be an automatic recount.

What happened? Labeling advocates have scrambled to fix some of the 13,000 contested ballots — the ones voters forgot to sign, for instance. Oregon gives voters the chance to correct these mistakes.

We’ll let you know when we find out what happens! In the meantime: Just 800 votes out of 1.5 million — that’s a butterfly fart away from winning. What if Jurassic World — which features genetically modified dinosaurs this time around — had come out this year?

Climatic bad bee news from the Guardian:

Bee parasite will flourish under global warming, study warns

  • Gut parasite will increase in prevalence across northern Europe as temperatures rises, leading to honey bee losses

An exotic parasite which targets the insects is set to flourish in northern Europe if the Earth continues to warm, scientists at Queen’s University, Belfast found.

The study assessed the future threat posed by the gut parasite Nosema ceranae, which originates in Asia but can now be found worldwide.

New evidence of the parasite’s superior competitive ability and the link between its population size and climate change has been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Co-author of the study and adjunct reader at Queen’s School of Biological Sciences, Professor Robert Paxton said: “This emerging parasite is more susceptible to cold than its original close relative, possibly reflecting its presumed origin in east Asia.

“In the face of rising global temperatures, our findings suggest that it will increase in prevalence and potentially lead to increased honey bee colony losses in Britain.”

EcoWatch covers the incipient frack:

Maryland Governor O’Malley Is Ready to Allow Fracking in His State

Outgoing Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has frequently been mentioned as a top-of-the-list contender for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, should Hillary Clinton’s bid fail to materialize. But he just made himself more controversial within the party—and raised the ire of environmentalists—with his announcement that he is ready to allow fracking in the state, where it has so far been banned.

Natural gas companies have been casting a longing eye at Maryland since the fracking boom started. The state’s western panhandle sits on the natural gas-rich Marcellus shale formation, which has proved such a money-maker in Pennsylvania just to its north.

O’Malley said that energy companies that want to frack in the state will have to abide by restrictive environmental and public health regulations, including limits on drilling locations and oversight of risks to air pollution and water contamination. He said he will unveil the final regulations in mid-December before leaving office to be succeeded by Republican Larry Hogan in January. Hogan has made it clear he’s chomping at the bit to open the state to fracking, calling it an “economic gold mine,” and saying during the campaign “States throughout the country have been developing their natural gas resources safely and efficiently for decades. I am concerned that there has been a knee-jerk reaction against any new energy production.”

While MercoPress gets down to the nitty gritty:

Follow the sand to the real fracking boom

  • When it takes up to four million pounds of sand to frack a single well, it’s no wonder that demand is outpacing supply and frack sand producers are becoming the biggest behind-the-scenes beneficiaries of the American oil and gas boom.

Demand is exploding for “frac-sand”–a durable, high-purity quartz sand used to help produce petroleum fluids and prop up man-made fractures in shale rock formations through which oil and gas flows—turning this segment into the top driver of value in the shale revolution.

“One of the major players in Eagle Ford is saying they’re short 6 million tons of 100 mesh alone in 2014 and they don’t know where to get it. And that’s just one player,” Rasool Mohammad, President and CEO of Select Sands Corporation told Oilprice.com.

Frack sand exponentially increases the return on investment for a well, and oil and gas companies are expected to use some 95 billion pounds of frack sand this year, up nearly 30% from 2013 and up 50% from forecasts made just last year.

Pushing demand up is the trend for wider, shorter fracs, which require twice as much sand. The practice of down-spacing —or decreasing the space between wells—means a dramatic increase in the amount of frac sand used. The industry has gone from drilling four wells per square mile to up to 16 using shorter, wider fracs. In the process, they have found that the more tightly spaced wells do not reduce production from surrounding wells.

After the jump, crude oil train safety anxieties, Japan vows to continue its war on whales and call critics bigots, hue and cry kills an Idaho wolf hunt, Kenya women victimized by water mafias, profusely polluting rickshaws in Uttar Pradesh, an Amazonian deforestation rate decline, a Chinese dam stirs Indian angst, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now! and a new nuclear waste incinerator, corporations socialize decommissioning debt, geriatric reactor inspections, and another reactor restart mooted, plus Swiss who eat their cats for Christmas. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Politics, aid, fears, & deadlines


We begin with an interesting story from the New York Times:

Notable Absence of New Ebola Quarantines at New York Area Airports

A day after a doctor who had returned from Guinea about a week earlier became New York’s first Ebola case, the governors of New York and New Jersey announced that they would begin quarantining travelers who had been in contact with Ebola patients in West Africa.

The move, which went beyond federal policy, drew protests from medical aid groups and the Obama administration, who said it would penalize people who were trying to contain Ebola and discourage others from doing so.

But since Kaci Hickox, a nurse, flew into Newark’s airport on Oct. 24 and was kept at a hospital for three days, no one else has been caught up in the quarantine dragnet at the New York and New Jersey airports.

The absence of quarantines is striking, not only because both governors emphatically defended the policy as a necessary precaution, but also because most people returning from Ebola-stricken countries arrive in the United States through Kennedy and Newark Liberty International Airports. Several aid organizations have American health care workers in West Africa, a handful of whom return every week. But New York and New Jersey officials say no one coming through the two airports since Ms. Hickox has reported direct contact with Ebola patients.

From the Associated Press, another European patient evacuated:

Italian doctor with Ebola returning for treatment

An Italian doctor who has been working in Sierra Leone has tested positive for the Ebola virus and is being transferred to Rome for treatment, the health ministry said Monday. It is Italy’s first confirmed case of Ebola.

The doctor, who was not identified and who works for the non-governmental organization Emergency, is scheduled to arrive overnight in Italy for treatment at the Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases in Rome.

Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin said in a statement that the doctor experienced a fever and other symptoms overnight, but he was well enough to eat breakfast and drink beverages. The ministry said all measures are being taken to ensure the safe transport of the patient following biohazard protocols.

From the Associated Press, anticipation of cash registers ringing [or beeping, or booping, or whatever]:

Merck, Iowa firm sign Ebola vaccine licensing deal

Merck & Co., one of the world’s top developers and sellers of vaccines, has entered a partnership with a small drug developer to research and manufacture a potential Ebola vaccine now in initial patient testing.

The exclusive deal involves a vaccine candidate called rVSV-EBOV that’s under early development by BioProtection Systems, the vaccine-development subsidiary of NewLink Genetics Corp. of Ames, Iowa.

The vaccine was originally created in labs of the Public Health Agency of Canada, which in 2010 signed a deal giving BioProtection Systems an exclusive license for the vaccine and the technology involved in producing it.

Under the new deal, Merck, based in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, gets exclusive rights to the vaccine and any follow-up products.

On to Africa, starting in Mali with Voice of America:

Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms.

Mali is scrambling to do the same now, almost a month after a 70-year-old Guinean imam sought treatment at a clinic in Bamako. Five people have already died. Mali confirmed a sixth related Ebola case Saturday; a female relative of a nurse who treated the imam.

Every day, twice a day, teams are checking just over 300 people around Bamako. All of these contacts are linked to the Guinean imam who died of Ebola at a private clinic October 27, two days after he had arrived for treatment.

From the U.N. News Center, the U.N. acts:

Top UN health officials take joint mission to Mali in support of Ebola response

The Executive Director of Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Michel Sidibé and the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan, have visited Mali in a joint mission to support the country in its efforts to curb the spread of Ebola, as authorities there announced one new case and that two more suspected patients were being tested.

“The next 15 days are critical for ending Ebola in Mali,” where at least 5 people have died from the virus, UNAIDS said in a press release issued today. “The coordination of action and strategic communication are key to success, as are immediate international funding and technical assistance.”

The UN is ramping up support on many fronts to support both the preparedness and response efforts of the Malian Government, including with the announcement on Friday by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) would establish an office in the country. That office is scheduled to formally open an office in Mali on Wednesday.

Next, on to Liberia with FrontPageAfrica and a shocking allegation:

Ebola Stigma at Firestone: Orphans Thrown to Wolves – An Inhumane Act By A Heartless Company

A DAILY MAIL report suggesting that the Tyre giant Firestone has ordered the children of workers who died from Ebola to leave their homes on its plantation in Liberia is very troubling.

ACCORDING TO THE REPORT, Firestone which is part of the Bridgestone group which last week announced sales for the first nine months of the year totaling £14.5 billion – has told the families they cannot stay on in worker housing and will not get pensions. “At least 57 people have died on Firestone’s giant plantation near the national capital Monrovia since the start of the outbreak in March,” according to the report.

FIRESTONE, like most expatriate and concession companies abandoned Liberia at the height of the outbreak, leaving behind families and workers who labored the plantation in search of rubber which the company then export for profits.

IT IS SAD THAT a company as large as Firestone would throw children in the streets after surviving such a horrific virus.

Next, from the News in Monrovia, police preparations:

Police Ready To Enforce Anti-Ebola Regulations

The Liberia National Police is said to be gearing up for robust enforcement of the government’s anti Ebola and other safety regulations during the pending special senatorial election.

Police Director Chris Massaquoi said the LNP has been ordered to ensure the enforcement of the Ministry of Health and National Elections Commission (NEC) regulations during the election.

Speaking Friday at the Ministry of Information regular press briefing in Monrovia, Director Massaquoi said pursuant to the power granted the Ministry of Health under the Public Health Law, the police will also ensure that all beaches in Liberia remain closed during holidays.

He called on parents, religious leaders and others to warn their children and relatives against going to beaches during holidays.

The LNP Director also stated that except for the political campaign rallies, all public rallies, demonstrations and gathering in public areas will be strictly prohibited until Liberia is declared Ebola free.

However, Director Massaquoi said all political campaign rallies are expected to also be held in keeping with the guidelines and regulations of NEC and the Ministry of Health.

Reuters covers an upbeat assessment:

“Dramatic improvement” in Ebola outlook in Liberia -U.S. general

A U.S. general in the force helping Liberia fight the Ebola epidemic reported on Monday a dramatic improvement in the situation there and confirmed the cancellation of two planned treatment facilities.

Brigadier General Frank Tate, deputy commanding general of U.S. Operation United Assistance, said the drop in the number of cases in the country was all the more encouraging given recent improvements in reporting capacity.

He said new daily cases have fallen to around 20 from close to 80 when the operation was announced in September. Ebola is still spreading in other parts of West Africa.

While FrontPageAfrica covers a contrarian view:

‘Wishful Thinking’: Politics & Ebola Dampens Ebola End by X-Mas

U.S. Ambassador to Liberia, Deborah Malac’s description of Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s goal of eradicating Ebola by Christmas as “Wishful Thinking”, heralds a key challenge many health experts fear could keep the virus around for quite some time, especially for those contemplating voting in a time of Ebola.

That goal is being compounded by an upcoming senatorial election, many say would be a crucial test of the government’s message against Ebola and Liberia’s reaching a turning point in the outbreak: Avoiding touching, kissing and a large gathering of people can be a hard sell for a nation historically noted for daring conventions.

At the headquarters of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change last Thursday, for example, it was hard not to notice partisans and supporters of senatorial candidates hugging and holding hands as sweat poured amid the celebration.

And StarAfrica covers worrisome numbers:

Liberia: Resurgence of Ebola in Bong County

Reports from central Bong County say the county health team has reported 22 new cases of Ebola over a period of one week, despite huge reduction in the number of cases across the country.Media reports Monday quote the Bong County Health Team Administrator Fatorma Jusu as saying 10 of the 22 cases are confirmed, one probable and eleven suspected.

Jusu attributed the emergence of new Ebola cases in the county to the outbreak in Taylor-ta that has now crossed over to Bomota and Gbatala, all of which are adjacent to Taylor-Ta in Yelequelleh District, Bong County.

Addressing the regular Ebola response Taskforce briefing Monday on Phebe Compound on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Gbarnga, Jusu attributed the new outbreak to the breach of quarantine rules by residents of Taylor-ta, and stressed the need for urgent redress of the situation.

After the jump, a new aid shipment arrives, new treatment centers — one American-built, the other Chinese — open, an economic lament, fears of another flare-up, reintegrating the healed in healing roles, journalists’ ethics challenged, a chief calls on fellows chiefs to join the Ebola fight, American medical missionaries lauded, then on to Sierra Leone where a worsening epidemic thwarts a U.N. goal, a mayor makes a plea, plus a bitter harvest. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Threats, ISIS, hacks, cops, spies


Plus a whole lot more. . .

We begin with bodacious bluster via the Japan Times:

North Korea warns of wiping Japan ‘off world map’ over U.N. resolution

North Korea on Sunday denounced a recent U.N. resolution condemning its human rights violations, warning of retaliation against Japan and other sponsor countries.

“We will take toughest counteraction” against the United States, and “Japan, too, can never escape this toughest counteraction,” the North Korean National Defense Commission said in a statement, Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency reported.

“Japan should bear in mind that if it continues behaving as now, it will disappear from the world map for good, not just remaining a near yet distant country,” the statement continued.

More from Punch Nigeria:

N’Korea furious over UN human rights ruling

North Korea’s top military body has warned of “catastrophic consequences” for supporters of the latest United Nations censure on its human rights record, as state media reported leader Kim Jong-Un presided over fresh military drills.

A resolution asking the UN Security Council to refer North Korea’s leadership to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for possible charges of “crimes against humanity” passed by a resounding vote of 111 to 19 with 55 abstentions in a General Assembly human rights committee last week.

Introduced by Japan and the European Union and co-sponsored by some 60 nations, the resolution drew heavily on the work of a UN inquiry which concluded in February that the North was committing human rights abuses “without parallel in the contemporary world”.

On to the war of the moment, via the Associated Press:

Islamic State group recruits, exploits children

Teenagers carrying weapons stand at checkpoints and busy intersections in Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul. Patched onto the left arms of their black uniforms are the logos of the Islamic Police.

In Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s de facto capital in Syria, boys attend training camp and religious courses before heading off to fight. Others serve as cooks or guards at the extremists’ headquarters or as spies, informing on people in their neighborhoods.

Across the vast region under IS control, the group is actively conscripting children for battle and committing abuses against the most vulnerable at a young age, according to a growing body of evidence assembled from residents, activists, independent experts and human rights groups.

From Deutsche Welle, German recruits:

German intelligence: Dozens of Germans killed fighting for ‘IS’

German intelligence sources say some 60 Germans have died fighting for the jihadist group “Islamic State.” Many others have returned from conflict zones in Syria and Iraq – and now pose a threat at home.

At least 60 Germans have died fighting alongside militants from the jihadist group “Islamic State” (IS) with at least nine being killed in suicide attacks, Germany’s domestic intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maassen said in an interview published Sunday.

Maassen told the weekly Bild am Sonntag that some 550 radical German Islamists had gone to conflict regions in Syria and Iraq to help IS in an offensive that has seen the group capture large amounts of territory in both countries in recent months.

German authorities were increasingly concerned about the high figure, which had gone up more rapidly in the past six weeks, he said, calling it “a sad success for Islamist propaganda.”

The London Telegraph covers those from Britain:

Muslim MP: 2,000 Britons fighting for Islamic State

Labour MP Khalid Mahmood says 2,000 jihadists have travelled to Syria and Iraq from the UK – a fourfold increase on official estimates

As many as 2,000 Britons are fighting alongside Islamist militants in Syria and Iraq, a senior Muslim MP has claimed.

Officials had suggested that the number of British jihadists within the ranks of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) and other terrorist groups was about 500.

However, Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, a constituency with a significant number of Muslims, has suggested this was a fourfold underestimate of the number of British jihadists fighting in the region.

“The authorities say there are 500 British jihadists but the likely figure is at least three to four times that,” he said. “I think 2,000 is a better estimate. My experience in Birmingham is it is a huge, huge problem.”

And the Guardian covers the inevitable:

Increased terror threat is stretching resources, says Met police chief

  • Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe says security services have halted four or five plots this year, as terrorism awareness campaign begins

Security services have foiled four or five terrorist plots this year and the threat is increasing, Britain’s top policeman has said.

Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said the heightened threat was putting pressure on resources and hinted that he expects the government to increase funding in the autumn statement.

The comments, in an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, came before the launch of a nationwide terrorism awareness campaign. Officers will be briefing more than 6,000 people at 80 venues including schools, universities, airports, shopping centres, cinemas and farms in a bid to engage the public and businesses in preventing attacks.

From TheLocal.fr, a French recruit:

Armed Isis Islamist grew up in small French village

One of three Kalashnikov-wielding Islamists seen burning their French passports in an Islamic State propaganda video this week grew up in a small village in southern France, the mayor said Saturday.

The 26-year-old, who goes by the name of Abou Ossama Al-Faranci in the Internet video, left the village of some 1,400 people five years ago, residents told the newspaper La Depeche du Midi.

The bearded blue-eyed man seen in the footage urging Muslims to stage attacks in France was reported to have gone to school in the village and have converted to Islam, studying the Koran in a Muslim centre in a private home.

And from TheLocal.se, the Swedish contingent:

Up to 300 Swedes fighting with Isis: report

As many as 300 Swedes could have joined the Islamic State insurgency, Sweden’s intelligence chief said Saturday.

“A hundred cases of people who have left to join the fighting have been confirmed, then there are the presumed cases…, and then there are those that have not been counted, which brings the total to between 250 and 300,” said the head of the intelligence services, Anders Thornberg, on Sveriges Radio.

Thornberg said the flow of youths leaving to become jihadists in Syria was rapidly rising.

“A certain number of young Swedish men are leaving and training in camps, learning to become terrorists to use explosives and weapons,” he said.

And from north of the U.S. border via CBC’s The National:

Canadians volunteer to fight ISIS

Program notes:

Canadian volunteers have joined the ground war against ISIS. Are their actions legal? And would they fire at a radicalized Canadian?

While the Diplomat covers other Asian concerns:

Islamic State and a South Asian Caliphate

Islamic State has its eyes on South and Southeast Asia. The threat is long-term, but should not be ignored.

Although Islamic State’s ultimate aspirations are unrealistic, some of its targets in Asia are vulnerable, most notably that cradle and crucible of terrorism on the continent, Pakistan. Bordering Afghanistan, where terrorist violence is already resurgent with NATO thinning out, Pakistan is a promising base for Islamic State in South Asia. It also offers a huge bonanza that Islamist movements would willingly bleed for: nuclear weapons.

Although Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are guarded by a professional army, the degree to which the Pakistan Army itself has been radicalized is not easily quantifiable. After all, this is the same Army that sends its officers for tenures in the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). Whether these officers return to the army with or without any radical leanings is anyone’s guess.

Pakistan-based terror groups seem to be leaning more and more towards Islamic State. Tehrik-e-Taliban, Pakistan (TTP) is a fractured entity today. More and more of its members are openly declaring their allegiance to Islamic State. The recluse Taliban supremo, Mullah Omar, and the staid al-Qaeda leader Ayman al Jawahri are losing ground.

Afghanistan also offers fertile ground for terror. The Afghanistan Taliban shares with Islamic State a strategic approach in which both prefer control and domination of territory as the prime objective. However, the Afghanistan Taliban would like to retain its primacy in Afghanistan. It may not want to be an Islamic State surrogate. Its long association with al-Qaeda is another obstacle.

Unrest in France from the Guardian:

Protesters clash with police in France over young activist killed by grenade

  • Remi Fraisse, 21, was killed by a so-called ‘offensive grenade’ during a standoff between police and opponents of a dam project

Protesters clashed with police in southern France on Saturday over the death of a young activist killed by a police grenade, in the latest of a series of demonstrations which have embarrassed the Socialist government.

At least 16 people were arrested in Toulouse after garbage containers were set on fire and bus stops smashed on the margins of an otherwise peaceful march where demonstrators held placards reading “end to the licence to kill”.

Remi Fraisse, 21, was killed last month by a so-called “offensive grenade” during a standoff between police and opponents of a dam project in wetlands near Toulouse. Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve later ordered these devices banned.

From RT, Falangist frolics:

Far-right Spaniards mark anniversary of General Franco’s death

Hundreds of far-right activists gathered in Madrid center to commemorate the anniversary of the death of General Franco. Fascist symbols were seen at the rally which praised the late dictator.

Around 300 far-right activists gathered on Orient Square in Central Madrid on Sunday to commemorate the 39th anniversary of the death of the fascist dictator and Falange party’s leader Francisco Franco. The general died on November 20, 1975.

Organized by several far-right political parties and nationalist organizations including Nudo Patriota Espanol, Movimiento Catolico Espanol and Patriotas, the event also marked the anniversary of the death of Jose Primo de Rivera, the founder of Falange Espanola who was executed by the Spanish republican government on November 20, 1936. Falange Espanola, created in 1933, was a nationalist party inspired by Italian fascism.

More questions about an Old Blighty coverup, via the Independent:

Child abuse cases are ‘tip of the iceberg’ in sexual exploitation of young people, said Theresa May

The cases of child abuse exposed so far are only the “tip of the iceberg” of the extent of sexual exploitation of young people, the Home Secretary Theresa May has warned.

Ms May spoke of her dismay over the number of abusers who have been able to operate with impunity both in the past and today.

She said it was impossible to assess whether the activities of a paedophile ring involving senior figures in public life were covered up in the 1980s, but insisted an independent inquiry into historical sex abuse would establish the full facts.

“It’s not possible to say whether there was a cover-up, that is why I think it is so important we have the inquiry so we get at the truth,” she told the Andrew Marr Show.

From the Los Angeles Times, misconduct afloat:

Captain of San Diego-based warship relieved of duty

The captain of one of the Navy’s premier warships has been relieved of command after an investigation found that he routinely used foul and abusive language toward crew members and engaged in inappropriate touching and questioning of women.

Capt. Wayne Brown was relieved as commander of the San Diego-based amphibious assault ship Boxer after an investigation concluded that he had “lost the respect, trust and confidence of his subordinates” because of his temper and his behavior toward female crew members that included touching and also asking them whether they were using birth control with their husbands or boyfriends, according to the investigative report.

Brown created a “hostile, offensive and intimidating work environment,” according to the investigation that was undertaken after complaints from enlisted personnel and junior officers.

From BBC News, superbug:

Regin, new computer spying bug, discovered by Symantec

A leading computer security company says it has discovered one of the most sophisticated pieces of malicious software ever seen.

Symantec says the bug, named Regin, was probably created by a government and has been used for six years against a range of targets around the world. Once installed on a computer, it can do things like capture screenshots, steal passwords or recover deleted files.

Experts say computers in Russia, Saudi Arabia and Ireland have been hit most. It has been used to spy on government organisations, businesses and private individuals, they say.

Hacks in China, from Want China Times:

Domain names in China hacked by overseas IPs

Nearly 60% of dot-com domain names in China were hijacked by backdoor programs in the first half of 2014 and 48.8% of them were controlled by overseas IP addresses, the Beijing-based China Securities Journal reports.

Huang Chengqing, director of China’s National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team/Coordination Center of China (CNCERT or CNCERT/CC) disclosed the statistics at a forum on cyber security at the World Internet Conference (WIC) in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province on Nov. 20.

Domain names are the addresses websites use to allow internet users to find them. When one gets hijacked, the person looking for that site gets redirected to a site controlled by hackers. In many cases though, hackers can be traced back to their IP address or special idenifier each computer has.

After the jump, Chilean colonels convicted of torturing a presidential father, a controversial Israeli redefinition, an Israel warning to France over Palestinian recognition, an Israeli solder busted, a British arms sale exposed, China seeks stronger security ties with Egypt as Cairo tightens the reins of internal repression, Iranian nuclear deal hits stumbling blocks as Kerry pushes against the deadline, on to China and a military espionage arrest, an academic’s prison sentence upheld, new China missile can reach the U.S., China seeks insular partnerships while Uncle Sam objects to one Chinese insular development as a Chinese officer gives the rationale, Coast Guard militarization, and another press prosecution. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, volcanoes, fuel, more


We begin with preparations from the Associated Press:

US looking past Ebola to prepare for next outbreak

The next Ebola or the next SARS. Maybe even the next HIV. Even before the Ebola epidemic in West Africa is brought under control, public health officials are girding for the next health disaster.

“It’s really urgent that we address the weak links and blind spots around the world,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told The Associated Press. “Ebola is a powerful reminder that a health threat anywhere can affect us.”

Ebola sprang from one of those blind spots, in an area that lacks the health systems needed to detect an outbreak before it becomes a crisis. Now the Obama administration has requested $600 million for the CDC to implement what it calls the Global Health Security Agenda, working with an international coalition to shore up disease detection in high-risk countries and guard against the next contagion.

And on to a European outbreak with TheLocal.dk:

Denmark closely eyeing German bird flu case

After a worrying new strain of bird flu was found in northern Germany not far from Denmark, Danish officials say they are watching the situation closely but have not raised national threat levels.

The German agriculture ministry said on Saturday that a goose with the highly pathogenic H5N8 strain was identified in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The ministry told AFP that it marked the first case of the virus outside of a farm setting in Europe.

German officials say they have asked regional authorities to keep an “active watch” on wild birds, which means killing animals suspected of having the virus and conducting screening tests.

And a Swiss alert from TheLocal.ch:

Switzerland bans Dutch poultry imports

Switzerland is banning chicken imports from Britain and the Netherlands after Dutch officials said they detected bird flu on three more farms.

The Swiss move, announced on Friday, came into effect on Saturday and applies to live chickens and chicks as well as eggs from the affected zones in the two countries, the Federal Office for Food Security and Veterinary Affairs said.

Belgium meanwhile ordered poultry owners to confine their birds as a precautionary measure following the outbreak in neighbouring Holland.

The Dutch economic affairs ministry confirmed that a second bird flu outbreak detected on Thursday on a farm at Ter Aar, close to the first case east of The Hague, was the highly pathogenic H5N8 strain, previously detected only in Asia.

From the Los Angeles Times, a seismically alarming development:

Earthquake early alert system ready to expand in California

Officials are planning the first major rollout of California’s earthquake early warning system next year, providing access to some schools, fire stations and more private companies.

The ambitious plan highlights the progress scientists have made in building out the system, which can give as much as a minute of warning before a major earthquake is felt in metropolitan areas.

Until now, only academics, select government agencies and a few private firms have received the alerts. But officials said they are building a new, robust central processing system and now have enough ground sensors in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas to widen access. They stressed the system is far from perfected but said expanded access will help determine how it works and identify problems.

From the Times, an example of how the system might work in esnl’s own back yard:

BLOG Quaker

From Science, chilling out, not eruptile dysfunction:

Thanks, volcanoes! Earth cooler than expected due to recent eruptions

Minor volcanic eruptions substantially slowed Earth’s warming between 2000 and 2013, a new study suggests. The small particles, or aerosols, were spewed high into the atmosphere and scattered sunlight back into space, preventing the global average temperature from rising from 0.05°C to 0.12°C. That cooling effect represents between 25% and 50% of the expected temperature rise during that period because of rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, the scientists say, so the finding helps explain the so-called hiatus in global warming over the last 15 years.

“This is an important paper,” says Brian Toon, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. The team’s results “help us understand why Earth didn’t warm as much as expected by climate models in the past decade or so.”

Scientists have long known of the cooling effect of major volcanic eruptions, which spew large amounts of light-scattering aerosols into the stratosphere. The Philippines’ Mount Pinatubo, for example, cooled Earth by a few tenths of a degree Celsius for months after it blew its top in June 1991. But the chilling effect of minor eruptions has been hotly debated, says David Ridley, an atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. That’s because scientists have presumed that most of the aerosols from minor eruptions do not rise beyond the troposphere, the layer of Earth’s atmosphere where weather occurs and where natural processes quickly clear particles from the atmosphere.

Making this, on balance, a positive development? From Reuters:

Cape Verde orders evacuation after Fogo volcano erupts

A volcano in the Cape Verde archipelago off the coast of West Africa erupted on Sunday morning, the prime minister said, calling for residents to evacuate.

A photograph posted on the local RTC TV station website showed a huge plume of smoke rising into the sky, visible from the capital Praia on a neighbouring island.

“Things could deteriorate in the coming moments, in the coming hours,” Jose Maria Neves in a statement on the government website.

“We’ve called on people to heed the authorities’ instructions. People should abandon Cha das Caldeiras,” he said referring to a hillside community.

And from Science, reporting from Norway on ominous portents:

Arctic faces an ice-pocalypse

Thick sheets of ice coating roads, homes, and pastures. Dead reindeer, no radio transmissions, and flights canceled for days. When ice came to this Arctic mining outpost on the Svalbard archipelago two winters ago, it crippled the community for weeks and devastated wildlife for months. Now, scientists are saying such weather extremes in the Arctic—known as rain-on-snow events—may become more frequent in the future.

“It’s hard to study extreme weather events, which by definition are rare,” says ecologist Brage Hansen of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. “So we took the opportunity in 2012.”

Brage and his co-authors focused on the rainy warm spell that brought record-high temperatures and prolonged rain to Svalbard over 2 weeks in January and February 2012. Temperatures during that period were routinely 20°C higher than normal, and on one day, the study notes, a Svalbard weather station recorded a daily average temperature of 4°C, which was “higher than at any weather station in mainland Norway on that day.” Another Svalbard station recorded 272 mm of rain during the 2 weeks; that station’s average for the whole year is 385 mm.

And from the Los Angeles Times, adapting to drought in Wine Country:

Drought revives ‘forgotten art’ at wineries: Farming without irrigation

Everyone used to dry farm wine grapes until the late 1970s, when irrigation was introduced. Dry farmed wines put California on the global map by winning a seminal blind tasting test in 1976 called the “Judgment of Paris.”

Today, only a handful of producers continue the tradition — and only where there’s just enough rain. Adherents are discovering revived interest in the practice now that California’s $23-billion wine industry is facing an emerging water crisis of historic proportions.

“It’s like a forgotten art,” said Frank Leeds, head of vineyard operations for Frog’s Leap Winery in Rutherford, a leading dry farm and organic wine producer in Napa Valley. “There’s very few guys that dry farm and less guys that actively dry farm. It’s easier, I’m sure, to turn on the tap.”

Leeds estimates that up to 85% of Napa Valley has enough rain to practice dry farming. But it’s hardly an option in Temecula, or in the largely bone-dry San Joaquin Valley, which produces more than 70% of the state’s wine.

Another drought impact from the Contra Costa Times:

EBMUD looking at rate hike if there’s no rain

Saying it is “at risk of running out of water” without a rainy season, the East Bay’s largest water provider is looking to hike rates by 14 percent next month to pay for an emergency supply — and may consider boosting the surcharge to 20 or 25 percent in the spring.

Unless it rains and snows a lot soon, East Bay Municipal Utility District managers say the surcharge will be necessary to buy, pump and treat the emergency water from Freeport a few miles south of Sacramento.

The higher charges would go into effect on or around Jan. 2 for the district’s 1.3 million customers in Contra Costa and Alameda counties. The surcharge will be considered on Dec. 9 at EBMUD headquarters in Oakland.

From Want China Times, the high cost of development:

Coal killed 670,000 in China in 2012: report

Coal was the major contributor to the death of 670,000 people and 535.2 billion yuan (US$87 million) in economic losses in China in 2012, according to a report cited in Shanghai-based outlet the Paper.

The results were gleaned from a government research project on coal consumption control and policy that was carried out by Pan Xiaochuan, a professor at Peking University’s School of Public Health in Beijing, and 22 Chinese national and environmental government agencies since October 2013.

Electricity and heat-producing industries, boilers, non-metal mineral processing and ferrous smelting emitted 21 million tons of sulfur dioxide, 23 million tons of nitrogen oxide and 12 tons of smog, powder and dust in China in 2012, which formed the bulk of the country’s pollutants. The PM2.5 particles produced by coal processing amounted to 61% of the pollutants.

The PM2.5 particles are the real killers, according to previous studies of Pan. The professor found that 670,000 people died of diseases related to the fine particles, of which 350,000 died of coronary atherosclerotic heart disease, 170,000 were killed by stroke, 84,000 by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 65,000 by lung cancer. The majority of deaths occurred in provinces and regions where the coal industry is most heavily concentrated.

Occupational diseases within the coal industry numbered 116,000 between 2008 and 2012. More than 94,000, or 82%, suffered from coalminer’s pneumoconiosis.

Economic losses from mining amounted to 2.2 billion yuan (US$359 million) directly and 3.3 billion yuan (US$538 million) indirectly.

Coal consideration in Germany from TheLocal.de:

Germany debates scrapping coal power

After deciding to scrap nuclear power, Germany is pondering saying goodbye to coal, its biggest energy source but also its top polluter and main threat to ambitious climate goals.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is split on the issue, which pits a vocal environmental movement against energy giants and coal mining regions, with only weeks until her cabinet is set to present its next climate action plan.

Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks has said that if Europe’s biggest economy doesn’t reduce coal use, it has no chance of meeting its 2020 target of cutting Earth-warming carbon emissions by 40 percent from three decades earlier.

After the jump, more environmental woes in China, another British fracking controversy, Shell’s Nigerian oil spill lies exposed, on to Fukushimapocalpyse Now! with a nuclear life extension deliberation and a consolidation of political power, the latest on containment in Chernobyl, and a possible end to a Darwinian legacy. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Caution, false alarms, politics. . .


A slow news day, so straight ahead we go, first with an assessment from USA Today:

War against Ebola in West Africa remains a tough fight

A snapshot of the Ebola epidemic raging across West Africa shows a wildfire of infections only slightly contained.

While cases have been on the decline in Liberia, the outbreak is worsening in neighboring countries, where basic Ebola-fighting tools are impractical.

Identifying the infected and those they’ve touched, and isolating them to break the transmission chain are all but impossible in Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown as well as the jungles of Guinea, says Jordan Tappero, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s second-in-command for the regional response.

The new surge of Ebola in Sierra Leone follows a devastating one in Monrovia two months ago. Such a furious spread is something disease trackers say they’ve never seen in the 38 years since the virus was first identified.

The latest domestic false alarm from ABC News:

2 Children Test Negative for Ebola in Ohio

Two young children who were admitted to an Ohio hospital today after they developed fevers following a trip to West Africa have tested negative for Ebola, health officials said.

Two sisters, ages 4 and 6, were taken to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus early this morning after they showed signs of a fever, Jose Rodriguez, director of public affairs and communications for the Columbus Public Health Department, said today.

Instead, the girls tested positive for Influenza A, Rodriguez said.

Before the test results came back, the two were kept in isolation and received supportive care, Jose Rodriguez, director of public affairs and communications for the Columbus Public Health Department, said today.

From KNOE News in Monroe, Louisiana, an interesting development:

CDC sends out Ebola guidelines to funeral homes

  • The Centers for Disease Control has issued guidelines to U.S. funeral homes on how to handle the remains of Ebola patients.

Mulhearn Funeral Home in Monroe confirms they’ve gotten a three-page list of recommendations from the CDC. Among the guidelines, funeral workers are instructed to wear protective gear when handling the remains, since Ebola can be transmitted postmortem. Funeral homes are also told to avoid autopsies and embalming.

According to the Associated Press, Governor Bobby Jindal is urging the Obama Administration to block flights coming into the United States from Ebola-stricken countries.

Friday, Jindal said, “Even countries in Africa have cut back on or stopped accepting flights from countries with Ebola outbreaks.”

Kyodo News cover Asian agreement:

Japan, China, S. Korea agree on Ebola cooperation

The health ministers of Japan, China and South Korea said Sunday they will collaborate closely in preventing Ebola and other deadly diseases from entering their borders.

The trilateral meeting was held in Beijing at a time of tentative signs of a slight improvement in Japan’s relations with China and South Korea, which have been severely strained over territorial and wartime issues.

Despite Japan’s political difficulties with its two neighboring countries, the health ministers agreed to boost countermeasures for the Ebola outbreak and other types of diseases, including pandemic influenza.

On to Liberia and a sad development from FrontPageAfrica:

Infighting in Response Efforts as GoL Unveils Ebola Spending

Though the deadly Ebola outbreak continues to see improvement for several weeks now, the response seems to be marred by poor coordination and infighting between officials at the Ministry of health, donors and agencies helping with the response.

Minutes from the Incident Management Meeting obtained by FrontPageAfrica suggest that there are no data on the quality of contact tracing because the government is not doing it properly and people are going back to treating people in their homes.

Experts believe the government is not taking the issue of contact tracing seriously as it should be doing. Richard Ragan of the United Nations Emergency Ebola Response UNMEER, says: “You always report on suspect cases, but tracking the suspect cases from day to day – what percentage of the suspect cases become actual cases?”

The World Health Organization during the meeting responded to the question, saying: “Give me a functioning database, and I could tell you – but right now, I can’t answer that. There are very important quality improvement activities needed.”

From the African Union, a welcome:

African Union Welcomes Plans by the People’s Republic of China to Build a Hospital in Liberia

AU Commission Chairperson, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has welcomed the announcement by the People’s Republic of China that it will build a 100-bed medical centre in Liberia.

This will add to the Ebola treatment infrastructure already being put in place by the USA, France, the United Kingdom and other donor countries in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, addressing the much needed bed-shortage identified as a key constraint in halting and reversing the trajectory of the epidemic.

This latest announcement follows other contributions made by the People’s Republic of China to the Ebola efforts in Africa, including donating medical equipment and personal protective equipment (PPEs), the deployment of Chinese medical personnel and aid personnel, providing food assistance and financial donations to the three affected countries. This is in addition to the financial contribution of USD$2 million China has already made to AU Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa mission (ASEOWA) and other support given to the World Health Organisation and to the UNMEER.

Finally, from Agence France-Presse, agricultural woes:

Ebola-hit Sierra Leone’s late cocoa leaves bitter taste

Program notes:

The arable district of Kenema in Sierra Leone — at the centre of the Ebola outbreak in May — has been under quarantine for three months as the cocoa harvest comes in.

EnviroWatch: Health, pollution, nukes, & more


We begin with sins of the past, via the Guardian:

Thalidomide: how men who blighted lives of thousands evaded justice

  • Newly exposed files show how victims were betrayed by political interference in trial – and how the pill has remained on sale

What should have happened for justice to prevail was for the government to support the families while the criminal court tracked liability for an enormous crime. That was demanded by the West German Social Democratic party in opposition in 1962, but they forgot about it in government.

Instead, while the witnesses testified and endured cross-examination in noisy, angry scenes in the courthouse, the real action was elsewhere. The large number of private documents newly discovered in German state archives by the researcher for the UK Thalidomide Trust speak to government interference in the judicial proceedings.

On July 21, 1969, the documents show, Grünenthal directors and their lawyers met in secret with the federal health ministry. The principal defendant in the criminal trial had been excused attendance in court for health reasons, but he was there at this and other meetings: Grünenthal’s founder, Hermann Wirtz, a 71-year-old father of five, a member of a devout Catholic family socially prominent as philanthropists in Aachen. No victims or their representatives were present, nor were they advised of the meeting.

From Channel NewsAsia Singapore, barfing aboard:

Norovirus sickens 172 on Pacific cruise ship

More than 170 passengers and crew on a US cruise ship in the Pacific have contracted Norovirus, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Sunday (Nov 16).

The highly-contagious stomach virus infected 158 of 3,009 passengers and 14 of 1,160 crewmembers, the CDC said in an investigation report.

This is the second time Princess Cruises “Crown Princess” has had an outbreak of Norovirus this year. More than 150 passengers caught the virus during a cruise in April.

TheLocal.dk covers an outbreak of a drug-resistant menace:

Second Danish death attributed to MRSA

A second person has died in Denmark from swine MRSA, the latest report from the Danish State Serum Institute (SSI) has revealed.

According to SSI’s third quarter report, a patient was hospitalised with a hardening of the arteries and underwent several procedures before dying within 30 days of being infected with MRSA CC398, a variant that can be transmitted from livestock to humans.

“There were three new incidences [of MRSA] in the third quarter, one of which ended in death. Throughout all of 2014 there have been six cases of toxaemia in total, two of which ended in death with 30 days,” SSI spokesman Robert Skov told DR.

Two leading experts said in August that between 6,000 and 12,000 people are currently infected with MRSA CC398 in Denmark. It has also been found that at least 13 babies whose parents work in the swine industry have been infected with MRSA.

From the New York Times, a dangerous complication:

Rare Vaccine-Derived Polio Discovered in 2 Countries

Cases of paralysis caused by mutating polio vaccine have been found in South Sudan and Madagascar, the World Health Organization said Friday. New rounds of vaccination will be conducted in December in both areas. The two paralysis cases in South Sudan were in a displaced-persons camp where revaccination is relatively easy, the W.H.O. said, while testing suggests that the one case in Madagascar did not spread far. “Vaccine-derived polio paralysis” is a rare but small risk inherent in oral vaccine, so the polio eradication campaign is trying to introduce injectable vaccine wherever it is safe and practical. The injectable vaccine contains a “killed” virus that cannot mutate. But it provides less protection than the live, weakened virus in oral vaccine, is more expensive and is much harder to give. Only 279 cases of polio have been detected in the world this year, almost all of them in Pakistan or in Pakistani families in Afghanistan.

And the Los Angeles Times ponders another public health woe:

As Ebola scare dies down in U.S., infectious disease preparations wane

Hospitals seek a balance between preparation and overreaction when planning for the possibility of an outbreak of a deadly virus like Ebola, the spread of a pandemic flu or the emergence of another little-known infectious disease, according to hospital and healthcare officials.

In an era of high costs, constrained budgets and tight profit margins, many hospitals struggle to determine what resources they can spare to prepare for an epidemic that may never come.

“You have to walk that fine line between an event happening and not saying the sky is falling all the time,” said Dr. Katie Passaretti, head of infection prevention at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C. Her hospital helped isolate and test one of the first suspected Ebola cases in the country in July.

From Reuters, another outbreak:

EU Commission to adopt urgent measures to contain Dutch bird flu outbreak

The European Commission will on Monday likely adopt urgent interim protective measures to contain an outbreak of a highly contagious strain of bird flu in the Netherlands, it said on Sunday.

“The Commission is expected to adopt tomorrow, Monday 17 November, a decision with urgent interim protective measures in relation to this outbreak,” said Ricardo Cardoso, spokesman for the Commission.

The decision will describe the zones established by the Dutch authorities around the infected poultry farm where it will be forbidden to sell live poultry, eggs, poultry meat and other poultry products to other European Union member states and third countries.

Modern Farmer covers consequences of killing insects with neurotoxins:

Landmark 20-Year Study Finds Pesticides Linked to Depression In Farmers

A landmark study indicates that seven pesticides, some widely used, may be causing clinical depression in farmers. Will the government step in and start regulating these chemical tools?

Earlier this fall, researchers from the National Institute of Health finished up a landmark 20-year study, a study that hasn’t received the amount of coverage it deserves. About 84,000 farmers and spouses of farmers were interviewed since the mid-1990s to investigate the connection between pesticides and depression, a connection that had been suggested through anecdotal evidence for far longer. We called up Dr. Freya Kamel, the lead researcher on the study, to find out what the team learned and what it all means. Spoiler: nothing good.

“There had been scattered reports in the literature that pesticides were associated with depression,” says Kamel. “We wanted to do a new study because we had more detailed data than most people have access to.” That excessive amount of data includes tens of thousands of farmers, with specific information about which pesticides they were using and whether they had sought treatment for a variety of health problems, from pesticide poisoning to depression. Farmers were surveyed multiple times throughout the 20-year period, which gives the researchers an insight into their health over time that no other study has.

There’s a significant correlation between pesticide use and depression, that much is very clear, but not all pesticides. The two types that Kamel says reliably moved the needle on depression are organochlorine insecticides and fumigants, which increase the farmer’s risk of depression by a whopping 90% and 80%, respectively. The study lays out the seven specific pesticides, falling generally into one of those two categories, that demonstrated a categorically reliable correlation to increased risk of depression.

These types aren’t necessarily uncommon, either; one, called malathion, was used by 67% of the tens of thousands of farmers surveyed. Malathion is banned in Europe, for what that’s worth.

A more lethal encounter with pesticide chemicals in La Porte, Texas, from KHOU-TV in Houston:

4 workers killed in DuPont chemical leak

  • Company officials said a valve somehow failed on a container of methyl mercaptan, a chemical used to make insecticide

Four DuPont workers are dead and another is in the hospital following a chemical leak at its facility here Saturday morning.

DuPont company spokesman Aaron Woods said a valve somehow failed on a container of methyl mercaptan, a chemical used to make insecticide, around 4 a.m. Officials are still investigating why the valve failed.

Workers were able to get it under control by around 6 a.m. At that point, five workers had already been exposed to the gas, four of whom died inside the unit. The fifth was transported and is recovering in an area hospital.

Complications from another Big Ag chemical addiction from PBS NewsHour:

Increased immunity in weeds may threaten U.S. crops

Program notes:

On Saturday, NewsHour Weekend traveled to Iowa to explore the widespread issue of herbicide-resistant and hard-to-control weeds.

Millions of acres of farmland have been affected, rendering some fields unable to be farmed.The EPA recently approved a new Dow herbicide that the industry says could help the problem. Opponents have sued claiming it could possibly harm the environment and human health.

From StarAfrica, a report of a growing number accounting for 3.4 percent of the population in a country with a total population of 174 million:

Six million Nigerians living with diabetes – official

No fewer than six million Nigerians are living with diabetes and the number could increase because of predisposing factors in the country, Mr Peter Ujomu, Executive Director, Health Matters Inc, said in a statement in Abuja on Sunday.Ujomu’s statement issued on the sidelines of activities to mark the 2014 World Diabetes Day (WDD), said, “Like every other statistics in Nigeria, there is always controversy about the number but right now, we believe about six million people are living with diabetes in this country.”

Some of the factors are the kind of foods consumed, culture, lifestyle and other things, he added.

“These are all signposts of an imminent danger in the increase of the number of people living with diabetes” Ujoma pointed out.

And an unusual tale from the Guardian:

The new strain of cannabis that could help treat psychosis

Although widely seen as a potential trigger for schizophrenia, marijuana also contains an ingredient that appears to have antipsychotic effects. Tom Ireland visits the UK’s only licensed cannabis farm and meets the man responsible for breeding a plant that might be of benefit to millions

In high doses, THC can induce temporary schizophrenia-like psychotic symptoms such as paranoia, delusions, anxiety and hallucinations. Yet cannabis also contains a cannabinoid known as CBD (or cannabidiol), which appears to have almost the exact opposite effect.

Purified CBD has been shown to have antipsychotic and anti-anxiety effects, and can lessen the psychotic symptoms normally experienced by people given high doses of THC. Research by University College London also suggests that people who smoke cannabis rich in CBD are less likely to experience “schizophrenia-like symptoms” than those who smoke cannabis containing only THC.

Unfortunately for the mental health of many young cannabis users, the chemical profile of the drug has changed drastically over the past three decades. Not only does modern cannabis contain more than twice as much THC as it did in the 1960s, it also now contains hardly any of the “neuroprotective” cannabinoid CBD.

A global-warming-enabled aquatic pest proliferation from the Daily Climate:

‘Explosion’ of gill lice besets Wisconsin’s beloved fish

  • As streams warm, a gruesome parasite is gaining the upper hand against Wisconsin’s iconic brook trout – and anglers bemoan the loss

Creepy critters are leaching onto the gills of Wisconsin’s brook trout and choking off their oxygen, stoking fears in anglers that the iconic fish may be on the outs in many streams.

Biologists fear warming waters may be behind the parasites’ recent surge, further hampering a cold-water fish already beset by a host of environmental changes.

“I would say it looks like little minute rice attached to their gills,” said Len Harris, a law enforcement retiree and outdoor writer who has been fishing Wisconsin streams for about 50 years. “

Gill lice aren’t aquatic versions of head lice, the bane of any elementary school teacher. They’re tiny crustaceans that attach to trout and char gills. They make breathing difficult, impede development and can slow sexual maturation – none of which is good news for fish. Worse, warmer water appears to give gill lice a boost. For the state’s only native trout, the brook trout, evidence points to yet another climate change concern.

The Contra Costa Times covers an amphibian action:

Oakland Zoo joins mission to raise and save endangered frog

In a quest to save an endangered California mountain frog from extinction, the Oakland Zoo is seeking to build a tougher tadpole.

Zoo staffers, borrowing a strategy that worked with the California condor, are caring for 26 adult Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frogs and 18 tadpoles captured in Alpine lakes and streams where fungus and planted fish have devastated the frog population.

The goal: to rear tougher tadpoles with stronger immunities so they can return to their home waters.

After the jump, a fish in decline to feed a Japanese hunger, Spanish boats ram Greenpeace activists, global-warming-enabled terrestrial gas-passing, an Aussie climate change retreat, Japan ups its climate fund ante, an ancient African tribe’s lands sold out from under them for a oil sheikhdom’s private royal hunting preserve, testing for a China Syndrome event in Japan?, the high costs of global decommissioning, and those 80 million bacteria swapped in the tongue tango. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Warnings, food, and more politics


A shorter edition today, and not for lack of seeking.

We begin with the only Ebola patient in the U.S., via the Los Angeles Times:

Nebraska hospital officials: Ebola doctor still ‘extremely critical’

A surgeon who was transported to the U.S. for treatment after contracting Ebola in Sierra Leone was still in “extremely critical” condition Sunday, according to a Nebraska Medical Center spokesman.

No further details were immediately available on the patient, identified by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ as Dr. Martin Salia, 44.

Salia is a member of the church and was working as a surgeon at Kissy United Methodist Hospital in Freetown. He is a citizen of Sierra Leone and has family in the U.S., according to a church spokesman.

A presidential plea from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Obama to world on Ebola: We can’t build a moat around our countries

President Barack Obama and leaders of the world’s largest economies urged governments across the globe Saturday to swiftly send money, healthcare workers and equipment to combat the deadly Ebola outbreak in the West Africa.

“We invite those governments that have yet to do so to join in providing financial contributions, appropriately qualified and trained medical teams and personnel, medical and protective equipment, and medicines and treatments,” the G-20 countries urged in a statement issued Saturday.

Some nations have contributed. But international health experts have warned that the response remains dangerously inadequate to meet the needs in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

And from CCTV America, an emerging critical complication:

Food price increases in Ebola affected countries

Program notes:

Food prices are soaring in countries affected by the Ebola outbreak. The U.N. has warned of food shortages. CCTV America’s Nina deVries reports from Sierra Leone on how people are coping.

The Associated Press covers the latest outbreak:

Mali on high alert with new Ebola cluster

For nearly a year, Mali had been spared the virus now blamed for killing more than 5,000 people across West Africa despite the fact the country shared a porous land border with Guinea, the country where the epidemic first erupted.

Now there are least three confirmed Ebola deaths, and two others suspected deaths in Mali’s capital, Bamako. Residents here who have seen the horrific death tolls from Ebola in neighboring Guinea now fear the worst.

“I feel uneasy because I have the impression that our authorities are not giving us the whole truth,” said Ibrahim Traore, who works at a supermarket in the capital. “There are a lot of things not being said about how the Ebola virus came to Bamako.”

Health officials now must try to track down not only family and friends who visited the 70-year-old man at his hospital bed, but also the scores of people who prepared his body for burial and attended his funeral. Teams of investigators are also headed to the border community where authorities believe the Patient Zero in the Bamako cluster — the 70-year-old man — first fell ill.

From the Associated Press, a consequence:

US to screen travelers from Mali for Ebola

Travelers from Mali will be subject to the same screening and monitoring that was ordered for people arriving from three other Ebola-affected countries, U.S. health officials said Sunday.

Mali is not suffering widespread Ebola illnesses. But federal officials are growing increasingly worried about a new cluster of seven illnesses in Mali that have left health public health workers scrambling to track and monitor at least 450 other people who may have had contact with the seven people and may be at risk.

“At this point we can’t be confident that every exposed person has been identified, or that every identified person is being monitored daily,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A parallel action from AllAfrica:

Mali: France to Screen Arrivals for Ebola

France has extended its Ebola airport screening procedures to cover passengers flying into Paris from Mali after the west African country confirmed its second case of the deadly virus.

“As part of the fight against Ebola and because of the evolution of the epidemiological situation, the control and monitoring will be extended to cover passenger flights from Bamako [Mali] from Saturday 15 November 2014,” a health ministry statement said.

Passengers flying into Paris’s Charles de Gaulle and Orly international airports will have their temperatures taken and will be given information on what to do in the case of a fever running higher than 38°C within 21 days.

Punch Nigeria raises the anxiety level in a stricken country just freed of its own outbreak:

Health minister raises fear over Ebola resurgence

The Health Minister, Dr. Haliru Alhassan, has raised the fear over resurgence of Ebola Virus Disease in Nigeria.

Expressing worry over the nationwide strike embarked upon by the Joint Health Staff Union, the minister said Nigeria was not free from Ebola as long as there were reported cases of the deadly virus in any part of the world.

Alhassan, who appealed to all concerned to support the leadership role of President Goodluck Jonathan in tackling the deadly disease, said the indefinite strike embarked upon by JOHESU, at a time when many Nigerians would return home from abroad to celebrate Christmas and New Year, could threaten the success achieved.

And a move that might seem contradictory, via StarAfrica:

Nigeria’s Rivers State donates Ebola protective equipment to ECOWAS

Nigeria’s Rivers State Government in south-eastern Nigeria has announced the donation of 5,000 complete set of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to ECOWAS in support of Member States affected by the outbreak that has claimed more than 5,000 lives from the more than 13,000 reported cases, mainly in the region.Rivers and Lagos States reported Ebola cases in July to September but along with support from the Federal Government and development partners successfully fought the scourge, resulting in Nigeria being declared free of the disease by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 20th October 2014.

A statement by the ECOWAS Commission on Sunday in Abuja said that the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Sampson Parker, who announced the PPEs donation on behalf of State Governor Chibuike Amaechi, to ECOWAS delegation in Port Harcourt on Friday, disclosed that the state was contributing 100 volunteer health workers to the pool of 500 pledged by Nigeria to assist ECOWAS countries affected by Ebola.

Lagos State is also contributing more than 200 of the Nigerian volunteers due to travel to their respective countries of assignment.

On to Liberia and a political move from the Associated Press:

Liberia health minister ousted in Cabinet shuffle

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Sunday replaced her health minister as part of a broader Cabinet reshuffle amid widespread criticism of her government’s response to the country’s Ebola outbreak.

In a statement read on state radio, Sirleaf said Health Minister Walter Gwenigale would be replaced by George Warner, formerly head of the civil service.

“Dr. Gwenigale, who continues to have my full confidence, will continue to serve as adviser in the Ministry of Health and will continue to work with me on the presidential advisory Ebola committee until his planned retirement in February,” Sirleaf said.

A deadline set, via Reuters:

Liberia sets national target of no new Ebola cases by Dec. 25

Liberia has set a national goal of having no new cases of Ebola by Dec. 25, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said in a radio address on Sunday, in a further sign that authorities believe they are getting on top of the virus.

Liberia is the nation hardest hit by the epidemic. At least 2,812 people have died in the West African country, out of a total of 5,165 victims in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data on Friday.

“We continue to combat the Ebola virus and strive to achieve our national objective of zero new cases by Christmas,” Sirleaf said in an address that also announced a cabinet reshuffle.

And from the the NewDawn, allegations of a missing $12,000 [U.S. dollars, with the Liberian dollar worth slightly more than a penny]:

11 Million Ebola money missing

Several health workers in Nimba County have threatened to take the county’s health team to court over an 11 Million Liberian Dollars saga. The aggrieved health workers told The NewDawn correspondent in Nimba that their position is based on the lack of transparency by the county health team in handling the money reportedly sent to the county by the Government of Liberia.

The head for the Nimba County health workers association, Tilekpeh Weh-Johnson, said out of the amount in question, officers-in-charge or senior officers of health facilities in the county are to receive 40,000 Liberian Dollars each, but this has not been done.

Mr. Weh-Johnson said the situation has created a bad working relationship between health workers in Nimba and the county health team.  When contracted, the head for the Nimba County health team, Dr. Collins Bowah, said that the money saga is being discussed on community radio stations in the county, but refused to confirm the actual amount involved.